Improving Workforce Capabilities with the People Capability Maturity Model



William Curtis

William E. Hefley

Sally A. Miller

This library item is related to the following area(s) of work:

Process Improvement

This article was originally published in News at SEI on: June 1, 2003

>p>Authors' note: A more in-depth version of this article can be found in the April 2003 issue of CrossTalk.

The People Capability Maturity Model (People CMM) is a framework that guides organizations in improving their processes for managing and developing their workforces. Based on the best current practices in fields such as human resources, knowledge management, and organizational development, the People CMM helps organizations characterize the maturity of their workforce practices, establish a program of continuous workforce development, set priorities for improvement actions, integrate workforce development with process improvement, and establish a culture of excellence.

Like other staged Capability Maturity Models developed at the SEI, the People CMM consists of maturity levels that establish successive foundations for continuously improving workforce competencies. These range from the Initial Maturity Level (Level 1), where workforce practices are performed inconsistently or ritualistically and frequently fail to achieve their intended purpose, to the Optimizing Maturity Level (Level 5), where everyone in the organization is focused on continuously improving their capability and the organization's workforce practices. The architecture of the People CMM, Version 2, is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: People CMM Version 2, Architecture and Process Areas

Figure 1: People CMM Version 2, Architecture and Process Areas

Adoption of the People CMM

The People CMM was originally released in 1995. In 2002, Version 2 of the People CMM was released to add enhancements learned from seven years of implementation experience and to integrate the model better with Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) and its Integrated Product and Process Development (IPPD) extensions. Version 2 now initiates process-driven Workgroup Development at Level 3. This is consistent with the placement of team-building activities at Level 3 of CMMI-IPPD. Also, a specific institutionalization goal was added to each process area to better align the goal structure with that used in CMMI. These improvements make it easier for organizations to integrate People CMM improvements with CMMI-based improvements.

Early adoption of the People CMM occurred primarily in organizations that had already adopted the Capability Maturity Model for Software (SW-CMM). Among the earliest adopters were aerospace companies such as The Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin Corporation, and GDE Systems (now BAE Systems). More recently, government agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency have adopted the People CMM to address the government's objective of raising the performance and capability of the federal workforce.

Intel Information Technology, which supports the computing needs of more than 80,000 employees in some 70 sites worldwide, reported in 2003 on its implementation of the People CMM. "After investigating several different ideas, we decided the People CMM was the most appropriate for our objectives of developing a world-class workforce and organizational capabilities for IT by strategically shaping our future workforce and influencing our partners and industry. The People CMM assessment conducted in the third quarter of every year provides IT with a strategic road map for implementing areas for improvement."

Benefits Achieved

The benefits of implementing the People CMM differ by the maturity level attained.   Organizations achieving the People CMM Level 2 uniformly report increases in   workforce morale and reductions in voluntary turnover (see Figure 2). These   results are not surprising, since years of research have shown that one of the   best predictors of voluntary turnover is employees' relationship with their   supervisors. The primary change at Level 2 is to help unit managers to develop   repeatable practices based on committed work for managing the people who report   to them and to ensure that the skill needs of their units are met.


Initial Turnover

Level 2 Turnover

Boeing BRS









Figure 2: Annualized Voluntary Turnover  

Organizations that achieve Level 3 experience productivity gains associated     with developing the workforce competencies required to conduct their business     activities. For example, Infosys (see Figure     3) reported a significant correlation of the level of competency among     the members of software development groups at Infosys with the project's cost     of quality (rework). That is, the more competent the members of a development     team are in the knowledge and skills related to the technology and application     on an effort, the less rework groups will experience.

Figure 3: Correlation of Competencies with Cost of Quality at Infosys

      Figure 3: Correlation of Competencies with Cost of Quality at Infosys  

At Level 4, an organization begins to achieve what W. Edwards Deming referred to as profound knowledge about the impact of its workforce practices on its workforce capability and on the performance of its business processes. This knowledge enables management to make strategic decisions regarding future investments in workforce practices.

Lessons Learned in Applying the People CMM

The CMMs that have been integrated into CMMI all concern behavior performed in or on behalf of projects, whereas the People CMM concerns behavior performed throughout the organization. Consequently, People CMM-based improvement programs should be conducted as part of an overall organizational improvement strategy. A program based on the People CMM should not be treated as a human resources initiative. Rather, it should be presented as a program for operational management to improve the capability of its workforce. Professionals in human resources, training, organizational development, and related disciplines can assist operational managers in improving their workforce practices after an assessment. Nevertheless, the responsibility for ensuring that an organization has a workforce capable of performing current and future work lies primarily with operational management. The People CMM supplies the roadmap that operational management can use to develop the workforce needed to meet their strategic business needs.

Obtaining the People CMM


The People CMM is available as both a technical report from the SEI and as     a book, The     People Capability Maturity Model: Guidelines for Improving the Workforce,     published by Addison-Wesley.

Please note that current and future CMMI research, training, and information has been transitioned to the CMMI Institute, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Carnegie Mellon University.

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